Holczer happy with an eye toward future sponsorship

By Shane Stokes in Cholet, France Hans Michael Holczer was a very happy man at the finish of Stage...

By Shane Stokes in Cholet, France

Hans Michael Holczer was a very happy man at the finish of Stage 4, realising that Stefan Schumacher's victory had given him a big boost in the hunt for a new team sponsor. Gerolsteiner will pull out at the end of the season and, as the German told Cyclingnewsearlier this week, they are using the Tour de France as a platform to show prospective backers what type of exposure they could get.

"This is definitely good," he said. "When we were winning Paris-Nice with Davide Rebellin, I said that it [a big victory] doesn't hurt in searching for a sponsor. Winning a Tour de France stage and then being the yellow jersey, I tell you that this is the best that could happen in this case."

Twenty three riders started behind Schumacher and so he had a long wait to find out if he had won. Holczer gave his reaction prior to the finish of the others, and at that point he recognised that his rider had performed very well. However, he was also very nervous, having experienced some defeats in the past.

"It is a very good ride and I think that the course today suited him perfectly," he said. "The riders had to go up some hills against the wind, so they had to have a lot of power. Then he [Schumacher] had a tailwind so he could really roll; I think he can do both things very well.

"At this moment I hope that the miracle comes true and this works out," he added. "I have won the Grand Prix des Nations four times, the last time with a double win, and so I know what it is like to stand on the finish line. And I have already lost some World Championships in the last second. It is a nervous wait now but we will see."

Once it was confirmed that the team had indeed taken the sought after stage victory – and, more importantly, the yellow jersey – Holczer admitted that he wasn't sure that Schumacher would beat Fabian Cancellara.

"I am pretty confident in his time trial ability," he said. "But there always remains a small piece left, something that would make me say I have to see it before being one hundred percent convinced. Today I saw it. I was in the car behind, I saw it.

"I expected him to be in the first 10," he added. "But winning is a nice surprise, even if Schumi himself is less surprised than I am."

Schumacher was close to a win on Stage 1, but attacked too early after the team was mistakenly told that the last 200 metres were flat. The time trial win made up for this, and also for his races earlier in the season.

"For him it is very important because he was not so content with himself after his early season in the Classics. He came here and attacked on the last climb on the first stage, but he miscalculated a little bit. He was not content with his result there.

"He told me all the day that he had good legs, that he knew he could do it, but to be honest Fabian Cancellara is here and he is almost unbeatable. I am very happy that he managed this today.

"We had one bad experience together two years ago in the Deutchsland Tour, when I really pushed him in the first kilometres. He had the best intermediate time, but then he was totally wasted. I think he finished outside the first time.

"Today we said that we would try it again," he added. "I said that I would try not to push so hard but I would push in the end and, as you can see, it worked."

A bunch sprint is the most likely outcome on Stage 5. However, the first summit finish of the race comes the following day; does Holczer think that Schumacher can hold on?

"We will defend as much as possible," he said. "Let's see, we will take it day by day and we will try as long as possible. Schumi is not a real hill climber, but before today he was not a real time trialist. So we don't know what to expect."

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